Sunday, May 3, 2020


   Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good morning, everybody. I want to start by thanking the men and women of the NYPD and the Parks Department and all of the agencies that had our enforcement agents out yesterday, all over the city in large numbers, out there protecting people's lives by making sure there were no large gatherings by making sure that social distancing was being enforced. I am so appreciative for everyone who is out there from all those agencies who are giving out face coverings and I know people really appreciated that, a great effort yesterday and only a beginning because as more and more members of NYPD are coming back on the job, some of whom of course were sick, some of whom are still fighting against this disease or even in the hospital. And our thoughts, our prayers with all of them, all the people who work for the city on behalf of you who are still fighting this disease, our hearts and prayers are with all of them, all of you, all of your families. But what I am so proud of yesterday was a strong effort across the whole city by the NYPD, the Parks Department, all of these agencies to make sure that these rules are being enforced, to make sure people had what they needed. And this is just the beginning. More will come as we get more and more personnel back and we're going to deepen these efforts are going to be more and more efforts to give out those face coverings, more and more efforts to educate people. But as I've made very, very clear and Commissioner Shea has made very clear, more and more enforcement efforts as well in every single part of the city.

Look, the danger is a bounce back, a boomerang where the disease seems to be going away and then reasserts and the cases come on more and more and the numbers go up and more and more people are afflicted and that would set back a restart and a recovery by a long time. And I'll give you real examples to you what's happened some other places where that's exactly the problem they had. They jumped too soon in various ways and then their restart and recovery took a lot longer. So now the question I'm sure you will ask yourself as well, what can I do to make sure we don't have that boomerang to make sure we don't have that happen here? And the answer is that we need to stick with what's working. We need to understand that the restrictions in place are working and that they only get relaxed carefully and slowly. There's no on-off switch here. It's not like you have all the restrictions one day and the next day you're back to normal. I don't think people even expect that anymore. I think people understand we'll be fighting this disease in different ways for quite a while. Doesn't mean we can't start to get more normal, but it means job one is to beat back the disease. So, since it's not on-off, we would do things in careful stages and make sure that each step we take is working before we take the next step. We have to do this to protect our people. We have to do this to make sure our hospitals are not overwhelmed and they can be there to save our lives. We have to do this so we can restart and recover.

Now I told you when I talked to you about this image and I now hope it's really in your mind, the boomerang. It's not abstraction because it's actually happened in other parts of the world. I want to give you those examples. So, the place to look is to Asia because they have been through many experiences that prepared them for the coronavirus. Many parts of Asia went through SARS and the bird flew in different challenges and we can learn from their experiences – it helps us to understand our future and how we can get it right and what not to do as well.

So many, many parts of Asia have done smart strategies, but they also have made those missteps at times that are instructive to all of us. And the smallest misstep, the smallest weakness is exploited by this disease. So, I'm going to give you three examples of a boomerang and we can learn from each one. First, let's go to Japan. And the lesson of Japan is don't come back too early. This is a raging discussion in our own country right now is some states are rushing to restart and it looks to me like some of them are doing it without a lot of evidence, without a lot of health care indicators to tell them what's really going on. And I'm hoping and praying for them that doesn't backfire horribly on the people of those states. In Japan, there is the example, the region of Hokkaido and it was a region that had initially experience with the coronavirus. And then late in February, after having only about 70 cases, this region declared a state of emergency. For three weeks, there was a lockdown in Hokkaido. And again, I emphasized just three weeks, at which point it seemed like the disease had been contained. Now we all know three weeks is not a long time. So, after three weeks, the lockdown was lifted on March 19th and it wasn't lifted gradually. It was lifted rather abruptly. So schools were reopened, public gatherings were allowed again, there were still some restrictions, but some of the biggest indicators, if you will, some of the places where people get together the most, like our schools and public gatherings, those were the places that somehow were allowed again, almost instantly. 26 days later, there was a surge in cases again in Hokkaido, and guess what they had to do very sadly, they had to go right back to stringent restrictions. And that's what they're still experiencing now. So that's one case study of a place that thought they had it beat, didn't necessarily wait a long time to make that conclusion and then went very fast back into a restart and now unfortunately are paying for it.

Now let's look to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is an example of how even if things look better, small levels of activity can suddenly grow into something much worse. So, by early March it looked like Hong Kong was pretty much done with the disease and normal life resumed. Travelers started returning home to Hong Kong. People were allowed to go out again. Nightlife started again, obviously very, very active nightlife in Hong Kong, a city very much like New York City, lots of bars, lots of restaurants, clubs. People went back out and in late March the cases started to surge. What happened, the government had to now in Hong Kong put a variety of new restrictions in place, restricting travel, restricting gatherings, schools, all sorts of places people went, those restrictions had to be asserted again and then in April even more had to be added. So again, an example of a city very much like ours that found they had to put back restrictions and then go even farther. The last thing we want to see here again, our job is to have a clear, steady march forward, as steady as it can be when time comes to relax restrictions, relax them, and get it right once and for all and never have that boomerang effect.

One more example, Singapore. Now Singapore has been lauded for doing a lot of things the right way early on in this crisis. By the middle of March, there were relatively few cases, Singapore was getting a lot of praise for a very strong, focused effort to address this disease. But again, not every part of the equation apparently was considered in Singapore. And one of the things that typifies Singapore is there's a number of migrant workers and they live in dormitories. The dormitories were allowed to fill up. By late April, there are hundreds of new cases of the coronavirus and the government had to impose a two week stay at home order and now has even increased restrictions on schools and restaurants and other types of public gatherings.

So, three case studies. What they have in common is they're all examples of the dangers that exist if the restart goes the wrong way, and if that boomerang effect is allowed to happen and it's a reminder that we have to be vigilant because even a small number of cases can lead to that resurgence if the right restrictions aren't in place. It's also a reminder that what we're building up – the massive testing apparatus and tracing apparatus and the ability to isolate people, quarantine people, that has to be stronger and stronger all the time to make sure we put the disease in check and keep it in check. So, the bottom line is we have to get this right

Now, testing, as I said, testing is the key. Testing has always been the key and I'm going to talk to you now about something exciting happening right here in this city to make sure that we will have what it takes for wide-scale testing. As of this week, we have begun the process of producing test kits here in New York City and this is a first in our city's history because this was not a place like so many other parts of America that thought we had to have our own medical supplies and medical equipment built right here. But we've learned a tough lesson that we have to create and we have to protect ourselves. That's why we're going to have a strategic reserve going forward for New York City to protect New York City. So, for the first time we are producing now test kits in New York City and this has had to be put together very quickly. A lot of partners brought together a lot of different moving parts that had to be made since that has never been done before. So, we're really an uncharted territory creating these test kits in New York City. And I will tell you like so many other things we've been working on.

Well, a test kit has something in common with that. You need three parts for a test kit. For the PCR test, the diagnostic test for the coronavirus. You need the swabs to take the actual sample. You need the transport medium, which is what keeps the sample in place on the way to the lab. And you need the screw top tubes to protect the sample from any contamination. So what the lab gets will be accurate. Well, the good news is these screw top tubes are something we have plenty of access to, but the two challenges where the swabs and the transport medium, the fluid that you actually keep the sample in. So the swabs, well, a painful, painful irony that the entire world experienced a shortage of these swabs starting over the last month. Why? Because almost all of them were made in Northern Italy. That turned out to be one of the epicenters of the global crisis. We realized we had to find another source. The global market wasn't working, there weren't sources around this country that were reliable enough. So, we decided we would make our own and this small piece of plastic here it, it's long. I want to remind you that way. This works is it is put literally biomedical professional well up your nose. So, it is a very careful effort that has to be done by someone that knows what they're doing. But this seemingly simple piece of plastic actually proved to be a complex matter because it has to be done just the right way and it has to be kept sterile in packaging like this until the point when it's actually used on a patient. So, getting this right proved to be actually a complex matter. But again, there's tremendous talent in this city and so many people, so many companies, so many partners who came forward and said, we want to get this done because we know it'll save lives in our city.

So, our local partner is Print Parts, a 3D printing company and they are using designs like this one that have been clinically validated. In this case, we found a partner in the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and another partner in Envision Tech, which is a medical 3D printing firm. So, we put together a coalition of different organizations to help us get this right. Now, how many when, well 30,000 will be delivered by this Friday and then we'll be on a track thereafter for 50,000 a week. Now, I mentioned what's called a transport medium, this is the fluid that the samples are kept in our local partners at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a great New York City institution. They worked with what you might call a recipe, which follows a CDC-approved protocol, and the first batch of this transport medium will be produced this week in New York City. Still has to go through a validation process, so that's going to take a little more time. But by the week of May 17th we will begin to pair the locally made swabs with a locally made transport medium and then like that cup of coffee, we'll have all the pieces come together and for the first time in the city's history, we will have our own test kits produced in large numbers right here in the five boroughs.

In the meantime, we're not going to wait. That initial set of 30,000 swabs. That'll be delivered by Friday. We will pair with an interim source of transport medium from outside New York City, and that pairing will happen Friday May 8th. Those full test kits will be delivered wherever they're needed to be part of our widespread testing effort by the week of May 10th. So this is all growing all the time and more and more pieces are going to be brought into play so that we can get to that widespread testing to help us go on the offensive testing, tracing, isolating, quarantine all the pieces needed to fight back this disease and avoid that dreaded boomerang.

Now we're going to beat back this disease. We're going to do it with testing, tracing, isolating, quarantining, all these strategies that work. We're going to do it on a vast scale, but, in the meantime, we continue to fight that other part of the crisis, that horrible reality of people who have lost their livelihoods, struggling to make ends meet. And in so many cases struggling just to get food on the table. Remember the estimates before the coronavirus were about 1.2 million New Yorkers, and this is a very sad reality. 1.2 million New Yorkers experience some amount of food insecurity at any given point in the year. And that's a horrible number to begin with. It's something we've been trying to fight back for years now. That number, even though we don't have all the facts yet and we're still trying to understand the sheer impact of this horrible crisis on everyday New Yorkers, that number may have grown by a million. There could be as many as two million or more New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity now or who will be experiencing it in the coming weeks. So, we have to help people right now and from the beginning, I've been painfully aware there's a lot of New Yorkers who now have to ask a question they never thought they'd ask. And that question is, where's my next meal coming from? The answer from the City of New York, the answer from your City government is we will be there for you. No New Yorker will go hungry. No matter what it takes, we will provide food to everyone who needs it.

So, food delivery is a big piece of this because there are a lot of people who can't get out. They're seniors. They're vulnerable folks that maybe people with disabilities, whatever it is, there's reasons why they can't get out, can't get the food. And particularly in this tough environment, there are a lot of people used to depend on other people to bring food for them who can't right now or dependent on members of their family who were the breadwinners, who don't have an income right now. So, we made it our business to do a massive food delivery effort for those who are most vulnerable. 

So, we continue to expand our Get Food program and particularly our delivery program. But to do this, to keep expanding we are going to need help at the community level. So, I'm going to today be asking people to join in who can help us in this endeavor. We need more personnel at the distribution site. So, if you're a nonprofit organization, a community-based organization, there are a lot of great ways we can partner with you. First of all, we need to immediately find an additional 300 staff members who can manage distribution sites. So we're looking for nonprofit partners with that skill, that ability to manage a site. We need you to come forward right away.

And we need help with delivery in specific neighborhoods where we need more personnel. And in sourcing available meals in those neighborhoods. The more we can do locally, the better off we'll be. Having the kitchen capacity, having the delivery all happen locally -- the more local, obviously the less traveling around, the more efficient, the speedier, the better. So, I’m going to name some neighborhoods where we are particularly looking for help. We are looking for help in Melrose, in Washington Heights, in Howard Beach, South Ozone Park, in Gravesend, and Sheepshead Bay, in Morris Park, on the North Shore of Staten Island, in Flushing, in Jackson Heights, in Eastchester and in Sunset Park. And we're particularly looking for providers who can help us by producing at least a thousand meals a day. We've put out a request, it's online right now. Anybody from a nonprofit organization or anybody who thinks they can help us with these immediate needs so we can really expand this meal program intensely, please go to

Okay. Few more things. So next Sunday, a very, very important day, every year, Mother's Day. It is a day that we cherish in our family. It's a day when everyone remembers to express their deep appreciation to, in our case, the mothers in our life, but every family, remembering how much we owe the moms in our families. Now, this is not going to be a typical Mother's Day to say the least, and, unfortunately, we've gotten some practice here because so many other crucial days in our year, from all different faiths, all different communities have overlapped with this horrible crisis. We went through Easter, Passover, now Ramadan, everyone's trying to figure out how to maintain our traditions and everything that is so dear to us in the midst of this crisis. Well, we're going to have to improvise again for Mother's Day. Now, Mother's Day for so many of us meetings gathering together. In fact, it's a day when our moms expect everyone to come together. Stop what you're doing and just slow down and appreciate the family and appreciate the mom in your life. But to appreciate mom this year, it means keeping mom safe. It means doing things differently. And that's particularly true if your mom happens to be older. We want to protect all the moms in New York City. And the way to do that is to show love and appreciation in different ways.

We used to all flock home to mom. This is not the year to do that. It is the year to show love and support in different ways. In fact, normally the gift we give to mom is to all show up. This time the gift we can give to mom is to give her some space and help her stay safe. So you can celebrate lots of other ways. Facetime, Skype, Zoom. There's so many ways you can celebrate. You can also do that old-fashioned thing we call a phone call, which moms still appreciate very much. In fact, many moms are like you could call more often, they'd like that. You can go outside mom's house and wave from the sidewalk. You can do all sorts of things. But let's remember how important social distancing is for everyone. And let's remember protecting mom’s health should be the number one thing we think about on Mother's Day.

Well, let me talk today, unfortunately, about someone who did the exact opposite of that. And I was shocked when I heard this. The White House Economic Advisor Kevin Hassett. He [inaudible] talking about the stimulus program, talking about what's needed to get New York City and all cities and states back on their feet. Yesterday morning, he says, well, everything appears to be happening safely. And literally, this is a quote he says, there is a chance that we won't really need another stimulus – a phase four stimulus. Listen to those words. There's a chance we won't need it. Well, let me tell you something, Kevin, why don't you come to New York City? Why don't you go to Elmhurst Hospital? Why don't you talk to our first responders? Why don't you talk to the families who have lost their loved ones? Or go to the ICU where hundreds of people are still fighting for their lives? In terms of your desire, which is pretty transparent to save money rather than to protect people, to risk the future of New York City and this State and so many cities and states around the country. It is outrageous that anyone with a position of authority in our federal government could even breathe these words. Because it's disrespectful in every way.

Imagine if the very same doctors and nurses working in our public hospitals are the very same EMTs and paramedics who were such heroes in this crisis, imagine if after fighting through this battle, months from now they had to face furloughs or layoffs here and all over the country. If we don't get help from Washington that is what will happen. And I'm talking about one place, one city right here already, $7.4 billion in the hole because of a crisis we didn't ask for and we didn't create. Came to us from another place. But all of you have fought heroically through it. I just want to see everyone in Washington show a little bit of respect for what New York City has gone through and so many cities and states around the country have gone through and just do the right thing and help us back on our feet.

Okay, we're going to go over the daily indicators. And as I've said, the reality of these indicators is what's going to determine our future and directly relates to all you do. We've generally seen progress, not quite enough yet. We have to keep at it. So, today progress, generally, still more to go. First indicator – daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that's up, and that's that one troubles me but it is the truth up from 92 to 113. But the other indicators are down. Daily number of people in ICUs across our public hospitals for suspected COVID-19, down from 677 to 645. Percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19, citywide down 21 percent to 20 percent. Only a little but still down. Public health lab tests for COVID-19 – percentage down, 50 percent to 33 percent. We keep putting together good days. I want us to put together great days and consistent days, but we're clearly moving in the right direction. Let's stick with it. Let's stick with it because it's working. But job-one is to get through this steadily, constantly, and get to the point where we can start to get to normal. But at the same time, job-two is always there – never let that boomerang happen. So, avoiding that boomerang, that's up to you, and that's up to all of us here at City Hall to make sure we are prudent and careful in the steps we take. You keep doing your part – and you're doing it great, New York – we'll keep doing our part, we will not let our foot off the gas until we're sure it's time. That's how we keep the boomerang from happening. That's how we move steadily forward together. 

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